A series of terrifying bushfires in the United States has re-emphasised just how dangerous these events can be to all who live or travel in areas potentially affected by them.
It may not be prime bushfire season here, but the stories of the speed and ferocity of the blazes in America will certainly resonate with those who have seen similar things in Australia.
Over the weekend, more than 300 people evacuated from campgrounds in drought-affected foothills in California’s south. The U.S. Forest Service said no injuries were reported as fire swept through 125 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains near San Bernardino.
In another fire, a blaze jumped across the busy Interstate 15 – which connects Los Angeles to Las Vegas – forcing about 60 drivers to abandon their cars and run to safety. About 20 vehicles were torched as they stood on the highway.
The blaze was fanned by strong winds as it raced up a hill and onto the traffic-clogged freeway.
“We had some highway patrolmen who said they had never seen fire travel that fast,” Greg Kieran, a San Bernardino County Fire Hazmat specialist, told US media. “It just overran these people before they even knew what hit them.”
Russell Allevato and his family were among those caught up in the drama.
“People were screaming. It was just crazy,” he told the media. “We were surrounded by the flames. They were to the left, then in front of us and they came around to the right. We were in a big horseshoe in the middle.”
Four structures in the nearby rural community of Baldy Mesa also burned as the flames raced across 3,500 acres. Incredibly, only two people were injured. Both suffered minor smoke inhalation.